September 23, 2023
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The tentative railway labor agreements between Class I freight railroads and several key labor organizations that averted a nationwide rail strike this week are a welcome development for state departments of transportation across the country.

[Above photo by the Virginia DOT]

The new contracts should provide rail employees with a 24 percent wage increase from 2020 through 2024, including an immediate payout on average of $11,000 upon ratification of the agreement. The deal also removes penalties for missing time due to certain medical events. All tentative agreements are subject to ratification by the unions’ membership.

Dr. Shawn Wilson. Photo by AASHTO.

“State DOTs across the country are dedicated to supporting a safe and secure freight and passenger rail network, and a network shutdown – for any length of time – would result in very real repercussions for our communities and our economy,” explained Dr. Shawn Wilson, 2021-2022 president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, in a statement.

Wilson – who also serves as secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development – said those new labor agreements worked out between railroad companies and their employees will keep critical goods flowing to consumers and businesses across America.

Without those new agreements, nearly 7,000 freight trains could have been idled, stressed the National Retail Foundation – costing the country $2 billion a day in lost economic activity.

“Those agreements are also vital in keeping passenger rail lines open and operating for commuters from coast to coast,” AASHTO’s Wilson added. “While we know that this is not the end of the road, AASHTO appreciates all parties coming to the table to work together on a solution to keep the nation’s people and goods moving for the sake of our economy and quality of life.”

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